The controversy surrounding the use of white phosphorus (hereinafter WP) by the American armed forces to ‘flush-out’ suspected insurgents in Fallujah, in 2005,3 followed by the use of ‘phosphorous shells’ by the Israeli forces against the Hizbullah ‘in attacks against military targets in open ground’ in Lebanon in 2006,4 has led to a renewed interest in the legal status of WP-based munitions. Fear of fire and of burn injury is deeply embedded in the human psyche, so a dislike for incendiary weapons is very natural, especially when women and children are the victims;5 but even in the case of combatants, one is entitled to ask whether the ‘laws of humanity, and the dictates of the public conscience’ should not prevail when it comes to anti-personnel uses of such weapons. In the absence of a specific treaty dealing with the use of WP, this article examines the use of such weapons in practice as well as the relevant legal and scientific background before attempting to reach conclusions about their legality.






On Monday, February 20, US-led coalition fighter jets bombed al-Shefaa, a residential area in eastern Mosul (Iraq). Sources from a variety of perspectives say that several dozen civilians died in the raid and a large number were wounded. 
The highest numbers are being quoted by the Islamic State’s Amaq News Agency, while the lower numbers come from al-Jazeera. The coalition commanders have not answered questions about the raids. 
According to Airwars, a large number of civilians have been killed due to US-led coalition bombings that began in 2014. The total civilians killed range from 5,875 to 7,936, while those specifically killed by coalition airstrikes number between 2,405 and 3,517. These are twice the number of civilians as killed by Russian airstrikes in Syria, according to Airwars figures.





In March 2003 the U.S. and others in its coalition invaded Iraq. We know the number of U.S. soldiers killed in the war in Iraq. We know their names and how they died. The number of Iraqi civilians killed due to the Iraq war, however has been hotly debated.3
 The Iraq war was undertaken to end the (illusory) threat of weapons of mass destruction possibly under construction in Iraq and to install a democracy. Because the legitimacy of the cause of the Iraq war was controversial from the outset, the human costs of the war have been under intense scrutiny.
I estimate that at least 126,000 Iraqi civilians have died as a direct consequence of the war's violence. This is an extremely conservative estimate based on what has been documented by public sources. To understand the complete toll of the Iraq War, to this estimate of civilian killed from 2003, one must add the estimate approximately 10,000 Iraqi military killed at the outset of the war, the approximately 19,000 insurgents killed from June 2003-September 2007,




You might remember Karlos Zurutuza from his photos of Baloch insurgents, his guide to warzone hotels or maybe, if you like reading news and knowing what’s going on in the world, you will have seen his work elsewhere. During recent trips to Iraq, Karlos waded into a story that even in the quagmire of depressing awfulness that is Iraqi news, stands out as brutally distressing. We had a chat with him about the medical fallout of the Iraq War and specifically its effects on children in Fallujah. You can read his original report on this here.




The assaults on Fallujah by the United States military in April and November of 2004 involved the use of white phosphorus. White phosphorus has extremely damaging effects on the health of victims, including severe burns and irritation of the respiratory system.
This article examines whether the use of white phosphorus was a violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention, Protocol III to the Convention on Conventional Weapons and international humanitarian law. It concludes that the use of white phosphorus was illegal because it is arguably a chemical weapon, riot control agent, or incendiary weapon. Furthermore, the methods and means of its use in Fallujah violated
the laws of war




FALLUJAH, Iraq, Apr 13, 2012 (IPS) – At Fallujah hospital they cannot offer any statistics on children born with birth defects – there are just too many. Parents don’t want to talk. “Families bury their newborn babies after they die without telling anyone,” says hospital spokesman Nadim al-Hadidi. “It’s all too shameful for them.”
“We recorded 672 cases in January but we know there were many more,” says Hadidi. He projects pictures on to a wall at his office: children born with no brain, no eyes, or with the intestines out of their body.
Facing a frozen image of a child born without limbs, Hadidi says parents’ feelings usually range between shame and guilt. “They think it’s their fault, that there’s something wrong with them. And it doesn’t help at all when some elder tells them it’s been ‘god’s punishment’.”
The pictures are difficult to look at. And, those responsible for all this have closed their eyes.
“In 2004 the Americans tested all kinds of chemicals and explosive devices on us: thermobaric weapons, white phosphorous, depleted uranium…we have all been laboratory mice for them,” says Hadidi, turning off the projector.
The use of white phosphorus "violates the Geneva Protocol for the Prohibition of the Use in War ofAsphyxiating, Poisonous or Other Gases, and of Bacteriological Methods of Warfare.
Incendiary agents such as napalm and phosphorus are not considered to be CW agents since they achieve their effect mainly through thermal energy. [Ref. ]
However, a report by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry concludes that White Phosphorus achieves its effects mainly through non-thermal energy. It must be concluded that White Phosphorus is considered a CW [chemical weapon] agent, and would violate the Geneva Protocol since its use causes indiscriminate and extreme injuries especially when deployed in an Urban area such as Falluja, Iraq.




U.S. military forces launched an assault on Iraqi insurgent forces located in Fallujah in November 2004. In the same month, allegations emerged that the United States used illegal chemical weapons during the fighting. In December 2004, the U.S. Department of State issued a statement rebutting news reports that the United States had illegally used napalm, poison gas, and phosphorus munitions in Fallujah.[2] In addition to rejecting charges of that use, the Department of State stated that "[p]hosphorus shells are not outlawed. U.S. forces have used them very sparingly in Fallujah, for illumination purposes. They were fired into the air to illuminate enemy positions at night, not at enemy fighters."[3] The U.S. government took the same position when questions were raised in Iraq in the spring of 2005 about the U.S. attack on Fallujah.[





Dramatic increases in infant mortality, cancer and leukaemia in the Iraqi city of Fallujah, which was bombarded by US Marines in 2004, exceed those reported by survivors of the atomic bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, according to a new study.
Iraqi doctors in Fallujah have complained since 2005 of being overwhelmed by the number of babies with serious birth defects, ranging from a girl born with two heads to paralysis of the lower limbs. They said they were also seeing far more cancers than they did before the battle for Fallujah between US troops and insurgents.
Their claims have been supported by a survey showing a four-fold increase in all cancers and a 12-fold increase in childhood cancer in under-14s. Infant mortality in the city is more than four times higher than in neighbouring Jordan and eight times higher than in Kuwait.




Although it received little attention at the time, journalist Samuel Oakford broke the story last month that the Pentagon has confirmed using weapons containing depleted uranium (DU) in Syria against ISIS targets—an about face from a previously articulated position. (A-10 gunships are also flying in Iraq, although there has been no reporting so far on DU use there). How significant is this from a law-of-war perspective? Given the lack of a treaty or customary law rule dedicated to regulating DU weapons, their use is evaluated under the general international humanitarian law (IHL) principles that apply to indiscriminate attacks, weapons that are by nature indiscriminate or that cause superfluous injury and unnecessary suffering, and means or methods of warfare that are intended, or may be expected, to cause severe harm to the natural environment. These concepts are difficult to apply, however, with respect to DU because the science behind its long-term impact on human health and the environment remains indeterminate.